Orientation-dependent Dxz4 contacts shape the 3D structure of the inactive X chromosome

Nat Commun. 2018 Apr 13;9(1):1445. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03694-y.


The mammalian inactive X chromosome (Xi) condenses into a bipartite structure with two superdomains of frequent long-range contacts, separated by a hinge region. Using Hi-C in edited mouse cells with allelic deletions or inversions within the hinge, here we show that the conserved Dxz4 locus is necessary to maintain this bipartite structure. Dxz4 orientation controls the distribution of contacts on the Xi, as shown by a massive reversal in long-range contacts after Dxz4 inversion. Despite an increase in CTCF binding and chromatin accessibility on the Xi in Dxz4-edited cells, only minor changes in TAD structure and gene expression were detected, in accordance with multiple epigenetic mechanisms ensuring X silencing. We propose that Dxz4 represents a structural platform for frequent long-range contacts with multiple loci in a direction dictated by the orientation of its bank of CTCF motifs, which may work as a ratchet to form the distinctive bipartite structure of the condensed Xi.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • CCCTC-Binding Factor / chemistry
  • CCCTC-Binding Factor / genetics*
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Silencing
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Protein Binding
  • X Chromosome
  • X Chromosome Inactivation*


  • CCCTC-Binding Factor
  • Chromatin
  • Ctcf protein, mouse